Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lately, it seems like I keep finding my best reads by complete accident. JJ Smith's 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse was one of those gems. How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul is the most recent one. I couldn't tell you exactly how I came across this book on Amazon, but I didn't hesitate to read it because it was available on Kindle Unlimited, so it didn't cost me anything to give it a shot. This book ended up being so valuable, I'm considering purchasing my own copy, just so I can refer to it whenever I feel the need.

Blogging for profit is a skill that has always eluded me. I knew there were countless bloggers out there, making six-figure salaries from pecking away at a keyboard, sharing their passions with the world. How they were able to generate profit from that was a mystery to me. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't make affiliate blogging or advertising work for me. To give you an idea, BreeniBooks has been around since 2007, yet to this day, Adwords hasn't sent me a single check because I have yet to hit the $100 threshold required for payout. Yes, in seven years I have made less than $100. So the possibility that Ruth Soukup could unlock the world of monetized blogging for me was enough for me to give Blogging for Profit a try.

Ruth Soukup is the face behind the blog Living Well, Spending Less. I didn't realize it when I downloaded the book, but I had visited her blog before. One of her posts, an article about how she permanently took her children's toys away, was a hit on Pinterest. I'm a Pinterest junkie, so of course it piqued my interest when it was making its rounds.

The success of that one blog post is most likely due to Soukup's skillful tactics of self-promotion. Reading the book, you would think this thing just comes naturally to her, but she explains how she has spent countless hours researching, attending conferences, and taking classes to perfect every aspect of her blogging business. And that's exactly what it is--a business. Soukup has taken what tends to be a passing hobby for most people and turned it into the bread and butter that fuels her family.

The author introduces herself by explaining how she came to be a professional blogger, herself. She recounts the obstacles she faced when she decided to make this idea her reality, including her own husband's disbelief. She delves into the mindset that kept her going, and the debilitating thought patterns she had to overcome to become a truly successful blogger. It's through Soukup's detailed experience--the mistakes as well as the successes--that the reader is able to carve their own path without falling into some of the same traps. She encourages the reader to not skip to the latter parts of the book that detail specific monetary outlets, because making these work depends largely on the mindset and dedication of the blogger. The first part of the book is about aligning yourself with your values and creating a foundation to launch a successful blog.

I won't argue that the first part of the book is incredibly important, just as the author suggests. It's definitely not a part you want to skim if you really want to take away the full value of her advice. However, the details of the second part, where she lists specific outlets for monetizing a blog, are enough to entice anyone to invest in the book. She not only lists different tactics, but specific sites to use and the general requirements they have for using their platforms. Going through her lists, it's easy to tic off the advertisers who won't be a good fit for the blogger, as well as the ones worth looking into.

Another handy part of the book is where Soukup shares examples of her own blog schedules and strict planning techniques, including her social media campaigns. It is clear she lives and breathes blogging, which is probably the reason she is such a success. She provides the reader with a link to a printable version of her own organizer. There is an appendix of resources to expand on the book.

After reading How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul, I found myself motivated to take action on my own blogs. They had been languishing for a while under my sporadic bouts of inspiration and lack of direction, but using Soukup's techniques, I am building a plan for making them into valuable contributions--both to my own well-being and the world at large. I took away specific ideas to use at my full-time job as an eCommerce Manager, as well. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not being prompted to take immediate action. I didn't hesitate to start plugging it to coworkers and friends. It's definitely worth the investment, and I will be following Ruth Soukup very closely in the future in hopes she continues sharing her experiences.

How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul
By Ruth Soukup
September 6, 2013
Life Well Lived Publications

Saturday, September 20, 2014

We're in the last hours before the BreeniBooks StoryBundle giveaway. Tomorrow, two lucky people will win gift codes to claim their very own StoryBundles! Hurry and get your entries in!
On that note, I decided it was time for me to snag my own StoryBundle. The newest one is a Supernatural Suspense bundle of ten e-books that look absolutely intriguing. I don't read a lot of fiction, but when I do, it tends to be of a darker tone, so this definitely fits my scope for a good work of fiction. Here's what the bundle includes.
Reign by Chet WilliamsonSecond Soul by Thomas SullivanOn the Third Day by David Niall WilsonIncursion by Aaron RosenbergMoonbane by Al SarrantonioWeaveworld by Clive BarkerNightlife by Brian HodgeSineater by Elizabeth MassieSkorpio by Mike BaronNight of Broken Souls by Thomas F. Monteleone
Now my dilemma is which one do I read first? They all look sooooooo inviting! Don't forget to get your entry in so you can claim your own StoryBundle!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's time for a good, old fashioned Breeni Books giveaway!

I love novel new ideas when it comes to spreading literature (hello--Bookcrossing). I also love supporting indie and self-published authors.

StoryBundle.com is a neat concept. They package e-books together around a common theme and offer them to you at--get this--whatever price you want to pay! Of course, the minimum is $3, but if you feel they're worth more, you can up your bid. You're supporting indie authors by deciding how much they make. You also get to decide how much of your purchase price goes to the authors and how much goes to keep StoryBundle in operation. You have absolute control and can decide the full amount goes to one or the other if you don't wish to split it. You also have the option to donate a portion to a noteworthy charity at checkout. Bonus books are available when you agree to pay a designated minimum amount.

None of the books contain DRM, so you're free to put them on your Kindle, laptop or smartphone. If you have a Kindle, the books can be sent directly to your device. Each bundle is available for a limited time. Go check them out. There's a Dark Fantasy bundle I have my eye on, as well as a CyberPunk bundle.

Now for the good stuff! I have two gift codes to giveaway to two lucky BreeniBooks fans. That means two people will receive a free StoryBundle! Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 7, 2014

SEO 2014 & Beyond
SEO 2014 & Beyond: Search Engine Optimization Will Never Be the Same Again
By Dr. Andy Williams
ISBN: 1494401894
August 5, 2014

This brief recap of the most recent evolution of search engine optimization gives readers some pointed tips for increasing search engine rank, while avoiding tactics that might negatively affect your site's Google authority. Like I said, at 126 pages, it is a very brief read, but Williams does well to pack in plenty of information.

He gets straight to the point and touches on some black hat techniques that are still being touted heavily by many SEO experts. These techniques can actually hurt your site rank, so it's important to avoid them at all costs. Williams also gives advice on cleaning up your tracks if you have used these techniques in the past and want to start over with a clean slate.

The main takeaway from SEO 2014 & Beyond is that there really is no search engine optimization any longer. With Google's algorithms getting consistently smarter at weeding out spam, the only true way to get your site ranked highly is to provide honest, quality content and avoid keyword stuffing. Write like you truly are an authority and your sole intention is to inform the reader, not garner backlinks and Google favor.

I took away several tactics to implement and found this to be a useful read. I would recommend this to anyone concerned with site rank and Google placement. I will likely read some of Williams' other books, as well.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The New Colored Pencil Cover
The New Colored Pencil: Create Luminous Works with Innovative Materials and Techniques
By Kristy Ann Kutch
ISBN: 978-0-77043-693-3
© 2014, Watson-Guptill Publications (an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC)

The New Colored Pencil is a perfect tutorial for beginners or those with a vague familiarity with using colored pencils for creating art. If, like me, your knowledge of colored pencils is limited to the exposure you had in high school art class and the casual scribblings you've attempted on your own with a box of Crayolas, you'll find this book to be an excellent source of inspiration.

Kristi Ann Kutch begins with an overview of the types of pencils available (who'd have guessed there were more than one) and the specific qualities of each brand, as well as the best types of surfaces to use with each type. She explains basic art concepts like color wheels, value, saturation, contrast, and more. You will learn how to create textures and use different tools to create effects. The appendix has a helpful list of each brand, color, and the assigned manufacturer numbers for a quick reference of the range offered. Kutch fills the book with both her own beautiful colored pencil illustrations and those of other talented artists.

This book contains so many techniques and ideas, you will find enough projects to keep you going for months. I had no idea there could be such depth to something as simple as using a colored pencil, but Kutch does a fine job of illustrating this. I highly recommend The New Colored Pencil to the DIY artist who loves learning something new or just needs some inspiration to get going.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jack the Boogey is My Real Name

By Davon and Chase Washington
Illustrated by Ana-Gabriela Stroe
ISBN: 978-0996091602
2014, Bedford House Books

What if the Boogeyman isn't the scary monster we all expect him to be? What if his bad reputation is all part of a big misunderstanding? That's exactly the premise behind Jack the Boogey is My Real Name by Davon and Chase Washington, and it's a refreshing take on the classic haunt.

Jack the Boogey introduces himself with the intention of explaining who he really he and why he's been so misunderstood. He's really a good guy, who has children's best interests at heart and earned his bad reputation keeping the real monsters of the world at bay. If your child has a fear of the dark, this is a perfect remedy to what they imagine is lurking in the shadows. It could provide some peace of mind. It is a great bedtime book.

Ana-Gabriela Stoe does an excellent job portraying Jack as a cuddly, non-threatening protector of children in the colorful illustrations. Besides the lovable, adorable illustrations, Jack the Boogey promotes the moral of taking the high road and continuing to do good things, even if no one notices. Any parent can stand behind this idea.

My little one and I thoroughly enjoyed the story (he made me read it twice as soon as I took it out of the package and I had to distract him with Monsters University to get away to write a review), but the real treat to me was stashed in the cover blurb hidden away in the back of the book. It's written by Davon Washington and his son, Chase. Davon wanted to help young Chase understand how much work and effort went into providing the nice things he had, so he let Chase make this a project in which they could collaborate and Chase could get an idea of the value of hard work. To me, that's the best part of the story!

Check out the link below for your own chance to win a copy of Jack the Boogey is My Real Name. Like the official Jack the Boogey Facebook fan page.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Jack the Boogey Is My Real Name by Davon Washington

Jack the Boogey Is My Real Name

by Davon Washington

Giveaway ends June 24, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Happened to the Tooth Fairy?

By Graham Gardner
Illustrated by Nancy LeBlanc
March 15, 2014
Belle Isle Books

When Oliver loses his front tooth, he's eagerly anticipating a visit from the tooth fairy. But when the tooth fairy doesn't show, his excitement turns to worry. Did he do something to make her angry? Was she hurt? He checks with every member of his family, but no one has a clue where the tooth fairy might be. Oliver becomes so worried that he constructs a trap to capture the tooth fairy and find out why she didn't take his beloved tooth. It's time for a tooth fairy interrogation!

Of course, one silly boy can't capture the tooth fairy, but when he awakens to find her standing on his pillow, she sticks around to answer some of his questions. She explains the numerous reasons why she might be delayed when he loses a tooth. Some are pretty obvious--too many kids lose a tooth in the same day, a kid stays up too late--but some are pretty ingenious. "Fairies are very sensitive. And if fairies are around with a child with a bad attitude, we can get the fairy flu. It can make us fairy, fairy sick!"

The tooth fairy continues her tales and fairy humor until Oliver falls back to sleep. When he awakens the next morning, she has fulfilled her fairy responsibility and replaced his tooth with four shiny quarters. He knows after their little chat they had the night before that if she's ever late again, he has no reason to worry. He's even thoughtful enough to write her a nice thank you note.

What Happened to the Tooth Fairy? features detailed watercolor illustrations to highlight each frame. There is an included secret message to decode, as well as a page with a tooth layout and blank areas to record the dates for each tooth lost. There is also a list of ages when a child is expected to lose each tooth. With the tooth records, it easily becomes a family keepsake. Plus, it's educational. I can imagine this book in dentists' offices everywhere.

Not surprisingly, the author, Graham Gardner, is an orthodontist, so he must be pretty fond of teeth. This is his second book. His first book, The Santa Beacon, was released in 2012.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Life Apart
By L.Y. Marlow
Broadway Books, A Division of Random House
April 22, 2014
ISBN 978-0-307-71939-3

Set during the turmoil of World War II, A Life Apart introduces us to Morris Sullivan. He's a nice guy--rather bland--who marries young when his high school sweetheart, Agnes, becomes pregnant. Determined to provide a good life for his wife and daughter and pursue his own lifelong dream, he joins the navy and sets off for a rather ominous destination: Pearl Harbor. He leaves his family behind in Boston while he serves his country.

Agnes is forced to raise their daughter alone while her husband serves. It's hard enough being apart from him, but then the unthinkable happens. Pearl Harbor is bombed and Agnes has to wait to learn the fate of her husband after hearing the news. Morris is injured, but alive, thanks to a fellow sailor. Thankful to have been spared, Morris seeks out the sailor who saved him to express his gratitude, only to find out that sailor ended up being part of the carnage of Pearl Harbor. He discovers the man has a sister in college back in Boston, and decides since he cannot thank the man himself, he will find the sister and let her know her brother was a hero when he returns home on leave.

The conflict arises from the fact that the heroic sailor was a black man, and the Civil Rights Movement is still years away. It's controversial enough that Morris-a white man-shows up in a black neighborhood to seek out the sister, but once Morris meets Beatrice, he cannot deny the inexplicable pull the woman has on him. He cannot erase her from his thoughts and begins writing to her once he returns to Pearl Harbor to finish his enlistment. Despite his dedication to his family, he has fallen in love with Beatrice.

The events that follow transpire over decades, through the end of the war and integration. Morris and Beatrice begin an on and off relationship that creates turmoil for all those surrounding them. The entire time Morris is carrying on this affair with Beatrice, he maintains his marriage to Agnes, so he is essentially leading a double life with two separate families. This results in his being only partially there for his wife, children, and mistress, so everyone really suffers in this situation.

While it would seem the book is mainly about Morris, since he is the key protagonist in the entire story, it really revolves around those who love him and the lasting scars he leaves. Each of the ladies in his life experiences her own degree of heartache, whether in direct relation to their relationship with Morris or the turmoil surrounding the events of the time period and how the general public views interracial relationships. The story is about how each woman deals with her personal demons and overcomes the obstacles placed in her path. I found it hard to stand behind Morris, as each time it seemed like he was about to step up to the plate and take charge he seemed to be stopped short. However, following the conflicts of the women in his life was much more satisfying. These ladies, even as children, overcame some incredibly tough issues that developed their characters far better than Morris.

The story winds up with an amazing twist, where Agnes ends up in Beatrice's care and the two form a lasting friendship that neither can explain. A single family is formed from the broken pieces Morris leaves behind. He's still present, but like most of the book, he seems shadowed by the strong women in his life.

A Life Apart is a poignant and touching tribute to historical events that forged the United States we know today. It's a stark look at our country's dark past and the struggles we have had to overcome, and still rally against today, to a degree. While a work of fiction, it's definitely worth reading if not just for the historical value, to get a glimpse of what used to be. The fact that all of these events could take place within one person's lifetime makes it all too apparent how little removed we are from those controversial events today.

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